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Technical Perspective: The Future of MPI

The MPI community recently celebrated 25 years since the start of the MPI standardization effort. This early-1990s effort was due to the emergence of commodity clusters as a replacement to vector machines, in what was dubbed by Eugene Brooks as "The attack of the killer micros." Commodity clusters needed very different software than vector systems, and two efforts were started to satisfy this need: The first effort, developed by High Performance Fortran Forum, was HPF—a data parallel extension to Fortran 90 that would provide portability across vector, SIMD, and cluster systems. The more modest second effort, developed by the Message Passing Interface Forum, was MPI—a portable message-passing library aimed specifically at clusters.

The MPI effort succeeded beyond the dreams of the early forum members. Today, all large supercomputers are commodity clusters, all support MPI, and basically all large scientific application codes; as well as an increasing number of data analytics codes, use MPI. The same will be true for the coming generation of exascale systems.


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